Climbing Higher: Glass Railings Span New Heights in Library Renovation

By Ellen Rogers

The D. H. Hill Jr. Library, one of the busiest buildings on the North Carolina State University (NCSU) campus in Raleigh, N.C., underwent a major renovation recently that includes an impressive four-story, open glass staircase. Also impressive were the logistics of the project; the renovation was completed in August 2020 on time and without closing or compromising operations—all during the challenges of a pandemic.

The new open stairwell, also called the Grand Staircase connects the second and third floors with the “Ask Us” lobby, and is one of the standout features of the project. Its use of glass helps create a bright, open space that also streams natural light into the space. The project was designed by Lord Aeck Sargent, headquartered in Atlanta. C.M. Steel Inc. of Rock Hill, S.C., fabricated the stairwell, which incorporates approximately 460 square feet of tempered-laminated low iron glass that Glasshape N.A. LP laminated into 42 unique panels. The glass panels were installed in the stairwell railings as well as the railings around the upper floor’s atrium. Superior Welding Solutions of Clover, S.C., was responsible for the installation.

The project features tempered and laminated low iron glass with a makeup of 15/64-inch low iron glass, 1/16-inch interlayer, 15/64-inch low iron glass, with an overall finished thickness of 17/32-inch. The glass also has ¾-inch drilled handrail holes. Each of the 42 unique laminated panels feature Glasshape’s VisionInk ceramic ink digital printing.

According to Andrew Forrest, sales director for Glasshape N.A. LP, project designers had a unique aesthetic in mind, which they achieved through the use of digital printing on the glass.

“The designers wanted to combine various shades of print opacity within the same lite of glass without giving the feeling of being too closed in,” he says. “Our in-house VisionInk design team came up with some options where we were able to use a base print color and then dictate which print layers would blend into each other between a 5-15% opacity to create the atmosphere that offered space and light.”

The entire project was the result of a partnership between the Libraries, NCSU’s Capital Project Management group, the Office of the University Architect, construction contractors at Holder Construction, and Lord Aeck Sargent.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.